In Pictures: Kew Gardens’ Plantasia Festival

This is a sponsored article on behalf of Kew Gardens.

We recently spent a lazy Sunday afternoon at Kew Gardens. For sheer escapism, peace and a sense of otherworldliness, Kew Gardens is hard to beat. You’re only 30 minutes on the tube from central London, yet at the same time, worlds away.

Plantasia is their 2014 summer festival, focusing on the healing power of plants and fungi with special gardens, trails, workshops and displays, all designed to demonstrate how immersing yourself in nature is good for mind, body and soul. We put this to the test when we visited, making a beeline for the festival highlights.

Our stand-out favourite was the Barefoot Walk in the Arboretum. Designed for visitors to experience the textures of their surroundings, it took approximately 2 seconds before we had our shoes off, trousers rolled up and were hopping from beam to treetrunk, wood chip to sand, stepping stone to paddling pool. The muddy ‘squelch’ zone was a big hit with the kids, but we saw more than a few adult visitors getting stuck in with just as much vigour (there are taps for cleaning off at the end of the walk).

Next stop was the Healing Giant — a huge raised horticultural display in the shape of a person, showing the effects of plants on different parts of the human body. Plants such as mint, poppy and aloe vera come together to form a lovely display, while information boards are creatively inserted to show the cultural, medicinal and scientific links between plant and man.

Then… it was Pagoda time. We are particularly excited about the Pagoda as it is open for the first time in eight years for visitors to ascend. A spiral staircase takes you to the top of a 50-metre tall building (nerd fact: 253 steps) for spectacular views across the gardens, extending all the way to London landmarks beyond. We spotted The Shard, Walkie Talkie and London Eye — take a look at the picture above. Handy visual guides on the top level tell you exactly what lies in the distance. You also get a souvenir certificate to prove that you made the ascent.

After a quick stop in the Pavilion restaurant for sandwiches, homemade cake and a post-lunch wander around the lake, we found ourselves at the Gin and Tonics Garden. This is open on weekends (and Fridays from next week), so if your visit falls on one of these days we highly recommend a visit. The small glasshouse is a joy, crammed full of plants and the main bar is laden with different gins, botanicals, fruits and more. It’s a sight to behold and it’s not exactly bad on the taste buds either. We took our peach and raspberry gin cocktails to the seating area just outside and sipped our drink while listening to the babbling brook nearby. Not a bad way to end the trip.

On our way out we caught sight of Mrs M’s Cart of Curative Curiosities cycling past, ready for another storytelling performance. In addition to all the above, Plantasia also offers hands-on Lotions & Potions activities for kids and feverish games of Curious Croquet courtesy of the all-singing all-dancing Kew Gardens World Croquet Team. Plus, adults can chill out with free drop-in Tai Chi sessions on Syon Vista. We couldn’t cram it all in on a single visit, but we’re more than happy to make a return trip.

Plantasia is supported by GSK and at Kew Gardens from 24 May-7 September 2014. Price to the festival included in admission to the gardens, *book before 25 July and get two adults tickets for £24* (usual admission price £15 for adults, £14 concessions and free for under 17s). Climbing the Pagoda costs £3.50 and Lotions and Potions workshops are £3 per person. Check the website in advance for the activity schedule. For more information on Kew Gardens visit the website or call their visitor helpline on 020 8332 5655

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